Topics handled by WTO committees and agreements
Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements

Norway: June 1996

“ Members welcomed Norway's active participation in the Uruguay Round and in the WTO, and the level of its commitments. They also noted the high and increasing level of trade with regional preferential trading partners in Europe under the EEA, EFTA and agreements with Central and Eastern Europe.”

175pxls.gif (835 bytes)


See also:

First press release
Summary of Secretariat report
  > Summary of Government report

14 June 1996

Back to top

The Trade Policy Review Body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) conducted its second review of Norway's trade policies on 11 and 12 June 1996. The text of the Chairman's concluding remarks is attached as a summary of the salient points which emerged during the two-day discussion.

The review enables the TPRB to conduct a collective examination of the full range of trade policies and practices of each WTO member country at regular periodic intervals to monitor significant trends and developments which may have an impact on the global trading system.

The review is based on two reports which are prepared respectively by the WTO Secretariat and the government under review and which cover all aspects of the country's trade policies, including: its domestic laws and regulations; the institutional framework; bilateral, regional and other preferential agreements; the wider economic needs and the external environment.

A record of the discussions and the Chairman's summing-up, together with these two reports, will be published in due course as the complete trade policy review of Norway and will be available from the WTO Secretariat, Centre William Rappard, 154 rue de Lausanne, 1211 Geneva 21.

Since December 1989, the following reports have been completed: Argentina (1992), Australia (1989 & 1994), Austria (1992), Bangladesh (1992), Bolivia (1993), Brazil (1992), Cameroon (1995), Canada (1990, 1992 & 1994), the Czech Republic (1996), Chile (1991), Colombia (1990), Costa Rica (1995), Côte d'Ivoire (1995), the Dominican Republic (1996), Egypt (1992), the European Communities (1991, 1993 & 1995), Finland (1992), Ghana (1992), Hong Kong (1990 & 1994), Hungary (1991), Iceland (1994), India (1993), Indonesia (1991 and 1994), Israel (1994), Japan (1990, 1992 & 1995), Kenya (1993), Korea, Rep. of (1992), Macau (1994), Malaysia (1993), Mauritius (1995), Mexico (1993), Morocco (1989 & 1996), New Zealand (1990), Nigeria (1991), Norway (1991 & 1996), Pakistan (1995), Peru (1994), the Philippines (1993), Poland (1993), Romania (1992), Senegal (1994), Singapore (1992 & 1996), Slovac Republic (1995), South Africa (1993), Sri Lanka (1995), Sweden (1990 & 1994), Switzerland (1991 & 1996), Thailand (1991 & 1995), Tunisia (1994), Turkey (1994), the United States (1989, 1992 & 1994), Uganda (1995), Uruguay (1992), Venezuela (1996) and Zimbabwe (1994).

Back to top

The Trade Policy Review Body has now completed the second review of Norway's trade policies and practices. These remarks, made on my own responsibility, summarize the main points of the discussion. They are not intended to substitute for the collective evaluation and appreciation of Norway's trade policies and practices. Details of the discussion will be reflected in the minutes of the meeting.

The discussion developed under four main themes: (i) Norway's economic structure and its multilateral and regional relations; (ii) trade practices by measure; (iii) agriculture and fisheries; and (iv) other sectoral issues.

Norway's economic structure and its multilateral and regional relations

Members noted the improved performance of the Norwegian economy since the previous Trade Policy Review in 1991, with strong economic growth and low inflation. Unemployment was falling, although not to the level of the early 1980s. Oil was a key feature of the Norwegian economy and a question was raised about progress in implementing the Petroleum Fund. In commenting on the generally open nature of the Norwegian economy, members also asked about the process of domestic adjustment in response to liberalization.

Members welcomed Norway's active participation in the Uruguay Round and in the WTO, and the level of its commitments. They also noted the high and increasing level of trade with regional preferential trading partners in Europe under the EEA, EFTA and agreements with Central and Eastern Europe. Questions were asked about the consistency of such arrangements with the GATT and the GATS, and differing views were expressed on possible trade diversion effects. Appreciation was expressed by many developing country members for the favourable access afforded by Norway's GSP scheme, although some further improvements were urged in extending the scope of the scheme, in particular to textiles and clothing.

While terms of access for foreign direct investment in Norway had become even more open than at the previous TPR, partly as a result of application of EEA rules on an erga omnes basis, questions were asked about further opening, including whether this would also be on a non-discriminatory basis. Norway's views were sought on the possible inclusion of rules on foreign investment within a multilateral framework.

In response, the representative of Norway explained that, while the oil sector contributed positively to the overall economic performance, economic policies had also been geared actively to achieving increased employment, reduced inflation and competitiveness. Unemployment had not fallen as rapidly as hoped, inter alia, because of a rapid growth of the labour force. Details were provided on the Petroleum Fund as a budgetary measure with a view to the future; allocation for the current year was estimated at 2.5 per cent of GDP.

The representative of Norway explained that liberalization of capital movements under the EEA was made on an erga omnes basis and that investment screening was non-discriminatory. OECD rules on export credits and guarantees were followed; assistance was provided for Norwegian investment in developing countries through a special credit arrangement.

The representative said that Norway saw no contradiction between further regional integration and efforts to liberalize at the global level. Norway hoped to contribute to the debate on regionalism in the new Committee on Regional Integration. The progressive inclusion of agriculture in the EEA was to be reviewed every two years. The provisions under which the EEA Agreement had been notified did not, in the Norwegian view, require review in a working party.

Norway appreciated the comments on its GSP scheme and took note of the suggestions made on how this might be improved, particularly in the areas of textiles and agriculture and by the possible inclusion of footwear. He mentioned the fund that Norway had established in the WTO to help provide technical assistance to developing countries. Appreciation of this fund was expressed by a number of developing Members.

Trade practices by measure

Members commented on the generally low level of Norwegian industrial tariffs, which had been further reduced as a result of the Uruguay Round, autonomous tariff cuts of low, "nuisance" tariffs and more substantive reductions. Nevertheless, there were some areas of tariff escalation. In the areas of forestry, pulp and paper, which were major export items, members wondered whether such tariff escalation was necessary.

It was noted that quotas for textiles and clothing continue to be applied by import licensing, which also affected some products from non-WTO members. A question was raised about the need for high VAT levels, given the fiscal surplus.

A number of members commented on the various subsidy schemes used by Norway, including for regional development, R&D, environmental improvement, export promotion and in support of agriculture and shipbuilding; it was felt that these could have disruptive trade effects. Members asked about future plans in this area. A number of questions were asked about state trading operations, including for alcohol, grains and animal feedstuffs, as well as, more generally, on plans for privatization of State enterprises. There were several questions about government procurement policies, in particular whether these favoured firms with local presence and which used a higher degree of local content.

Members expressed considerable interest in Norway's environmental policies, including the White Swan labelling programme and the electric vehicle programme. There were also specific questions on the application of technical standards and SPS regulations.

In response, the representative of Norway said that Government support for strong environmental policies could be positive, provided there were no trade distorting or discriminatory effects. Norway was aware of the need to strike the right balance in this area. Further details were provided on the voluntary eco-labelling scheme, which had been discussed informally in the WTO; the authorities, he said, were considering a notification under the TBT Code of Good Practice. He emphasized that support measures for the forestry sector were designed to prevent deforestation and ensure regeneration. Details were provided on the electric vehicles project.

The representative noted that, in the Uruguay Round, higher tariffs had been cut to a greater extent; full implementation of the results would further reduce tariff escalation. Agricultural tariffication had increased Government revenues, although he emphasized that the contribution of tariffs to the budget was minimal. The elimination of further "nuisance tariffs" was being considered in relation to the 1997 budget.

The representative confirmed that Norway had not used anti-dumping, countervailing or safeguard actions for ten years, nor had the EEA during its existence. The new Trade Act was designed to bring legislation into line with present practice. Current VAT rates would help maintain budget surpluses against the future run-down in oil revenues that was anticipated.

The delegate provided details on the Norwegian Government holdings in industry, and stressed that the authorities were not involved in day-to-day management. In banking, State participation, which had increased during the banking crisis, would be further reduced. The alcohol monopoly for imports, exports and wholesale trade had been abolished on 1 January 1996, but there were no plans to eliminate the retail monopoly.

The representative said that technical regulations and SPS measures were consistent with WTO obligations. He provided further details on assistance to developing countries and the labelling of genetically-modified foods or ingredients. EEA rules would generally prevail over non-binding international standards.

The representative provided specific responses to a series of questions on Norway's competition legislation and experience with its application. He noted that the EEA Agreement on competition rules had made anti-dumping measures redundant within the EEA. He provided a list of the notifications still to be made to the WTO in the areas of TBT, import licensing and agriculture.

The representative informed members that amendments to the regulation on Government procurement were expected to be adopted within one month, for immediate entry into force. However, he noted that current practice was not discriminatory. Environmental aspects could be one criterion in determining the "economically most advantageous tender". Further details were provided in response to specific questions.

Agriculture and fisheries

While welcoming the opening of the agricultural sector as a result of the Uruguay Round and the intention to bring prices closer into line with those in neighbouring countries, some members noted that these were still high and asked what further action the Norwegian Government intended to reduce the high levels of protection and assistance. There was additional unpredictability stemming from the use of seasonal tariffs which could be varied at short notice. Questions were also asked about the auctioning system being considered for the allocation of tariff quotas, some members expressing the preference that quotas be allocated on the basis of historical market share. It was noted that the EEA and EFTA agreements effectively excluded agriculture, and Norway was asked how this sat with the requirement of Article XXIV of the GATT that substantially all trade be covered under such arrangements.

In response, the representative of Norway said that administrative adjustments to tariffs were within international obligations, and carried out under guidelines to ensure transparency. The Import Council advised the Government on the import régime. There was no intention of increase applied rates. In Norway's view auctioning of quotas was compatible with the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, allowing new entrants and increasing quota utilization. Auctions had been introduced for minimum access quotas and for some items under the GSP.

Details on the operation of the Norwegian Grain Corporation had been notified to the WTO Committee on State Trading Enterprises. Information was provided on the import quota for deer meat.

The delegate concluded by giving an overview of the conditions affecting Norwegian agriculture and the rationale of its agricultural policy, including geographic, climatic and food security reasons.

A number of questions were asked about fisheries, including several questions about access to the Norwegian market for fish and to Norway's fishing grounds. A question was asked about the consistency of minimum prices for determining dutiable value for imported fish with the WTO Agreement on Customs Valuation. In response, the representative of Norway said that the Royal Decree providing for the possibility of minimum prices for fish and fish products was a safeguard measure against market disruption from import surges, not for customs valuation purposes. Minimum prices were determined in negotiation between fishermen and sales organizations.

Other sectoral issues

Members welcomed Norway's liberal offer in the maritime services negotiations, its commitments in financial services and the opening of its telecommunications market. A number of specific questions were asked about conditions of access to the Norwegian financial services market. While the State was divesting itself of its acquisitions during the 1992 banking crisis, it was noted that two trading banks would remain under state control. Some questions were asked about the Norwegian fleet and explanations were sought on the shipping registers. A question was also asked about the proposed revision of the mining law, in particular whether access afforded to EEA countries would be extended to other WTO members.

In response, the representative of Norway said that Norwegian mining law did not restrict exploration rights to EEA nationals; however, non-EEA nationals required a specific concession. Revision of the law would be proposed in 1997.

The representative said that there was no intention to replace the current restrictions on the cross-border supply of banking services, which had been duly tabled under the GATS. EEA conditions were different because of the "single licence" and other provisions in the agreement. The requirement that insurance broker activity be organized as a joint stock company would be abolished.

The representative indicated that he could make available a summary of the White Paper on maritime services to interested delegates. He gave details on the two Norwegian shipping registers, noting that the Norwegian International Shipping Register (NIS) was a national quality register, not a flag-of-convenience register.

Tendering procedures for the supply of telecommunications equipment were open; type approval was no longer a time-consuming exercise and foreigners should have equal opportunities to compete with nationals.


Overall, Members were favourably impressed by the strength and openness of the Norwegian economy. Such qualifications as were expressed related largely to Norway's agricultural régime, as well as to the heavy concentration of trade in countries with which Norway has preferential trading arrangements. There was encouragement for further opening up of the agricultural sector and for increased geographical diversification of trade; the commitment of the Norwegian Government to further liberalization was noted and the hope was expressed that there would be a continuation of current positive trends. Back to top